Brandon Pierce of Covington, La., and Cassie Wang of Lenexa, Kan., were presented the 2012 Presidents’ Leadership Award Thursday evening at the Rolex Tournament of Champions in Alpharetta, Ga.
The Presidents’ Leadership Award was created to recognize one boy and one girl junior golfer who demonstrate leadership, character and community service through their involvement with the Leadership Links program – a joint initiative founded by the American Junior Golf Association and United States Golf Association in 2005 to further develop junior golfers through volunteerism.
Pierce and Wang were honored for their service by the presidents of the AJGA and USGA during the Rolex Dinner of Champions.
USGA President Glen Nager introduced Pierce, saying, “It’s really incredible that you’ve accomplished so much at 17 years of age. Your commitment to philanthropy and volunteer work serves as an encouragement for other people to get involved and is a real inspiration and makes a difference in real people’s lives.”
AJGA President Gayle Champagne presented the award to Wang: “She’s an honors student, No. 1 in her class. She has taken every honors class available. She’s the student body president at her school. She doesn’t volunteer alone, by the way; she recruits others…..Cassie thank you for being an inspiration to all of us.”
In 2005, the USGA and AJGA began their partnership with an initiative aimed at the overall growth and development of junior golfers. By emphasizing the importance of community service and education, the partnership strives to enrich the lives of junior golfers and ensure there is a high level of volunteerism around the game for many years to come.
About Brandon Pierce
Birdies typically influence just one person's scorecard, but Brandon Pierce's birdies have touched the lives of many over the last two years.
In 2010, Pierce founded Brandon’s Birdies, a fundraising program to raise money for underprivileged children in his local community. Donors pledge money for every birdie he makes during his state, regional and national tournaments. Since its inception, Pierce has raised more than $40,000 for local charities in the New Orleans area.
“When a birdie goes into the hole, I always give a little fist pump,” Pierce said. “But when I take the ball out of the hole, I flash a smile at my mother, knowing that the money raised will help other young people.”
Pierce, 17, was inspired as a young golfer on the Fore!Kids Foundation Junior Tour. Since age nine, Pierce has devoted his time each year as a volunteer at the PGA TOUR Zurich Classic of New Orleans, an annual event hosted by Fore!Kids Foundation that makes a major charitable impact on the city of New Orleans.
“The Fore!Kids Foundation taught me values, courtesy, sportsmanship and honesty,” Pierce said. “They helped me grow into the person I am today and I really feel I need to give something back to them.”
The Fore!Kids Foundation is one of several beneficiaries of Brandon’s Birdies. Other charities include The Kelly Gibson Foundation, CP3 Foundation, St. Michael’s Special School, Hope House – Children’s Advocacy Center and the AJGA Foundation. In 2011, Pierce raised $2,000 for the AJGA ACE Grant program, which was matched by a $1,000 donation from the USGA.
This year, Pierce is raising money for Playing fore their Future, a Leadership Links program supported by the Nicklaus Children’s Health Care Foundation and benefiting CureSearch for Children’s Cancer. Pierce has currently raised the second-highest amount for the program. The eight juniors who raise the most are slated to receive an award from Jack Nicklaus during the Rolex Junior All-America Awards Banquet in November.
As for the future of Brandon’s Birdies, Pierce has increased his initial fundraising goal from $40,000, a mark he is recently passed, to $50,000 raised by the time he graduates high school. He hopes his philanthropic efforts will inspire other young golfers.
“I have been extremely blessed in my life being able to pursue my dreams,” Pierce said. “I am hopeful that by giving back to children’s charities and exemplifying a caring, sharing and positive attitude, it will motivate others to chase their dreams and give back to their communities.”
Pierce recently shared his life mantra with The First Tee of Roanoke Valley during the Scott Robertson Memorial Junior Golf Tournament. Later this year, Pierce will address golfers and guests during the Kelly Gibson/Fore!Kids Foundation Junior Tour Awards Banquet.
In the meantime, Pierce will continue doing what he does best – making birdies really count.
About Cassie Wang
Rather than simply feeling fortunate that her community had been spared from damaging tornadoes, Cassie Wang took action. Her fundraisers have helped families in Joplin, Mo., and spurred the founding of a nonprofit that reaches children in China, and it all started with a three-hour car ride.
Wang drove through Joplin on her way to an AJGA event in 2011 and witnessed the aftermath of the tornadoes that ravaged the town. From that point forward, she focused her humanitarian efforts on rebuilding the Joplin community, 141 miles from her hometown of Lenexa, Kan.
“After we drove through Joplin, and even while I was playing the tournament, I couldn’t stop thinking about how to help them,” Wang said.
Wang got involved with Leadership Links’ Birdies for Charity Program and raised nearly $1,000 for Joplin by the end of the summer of 2011.
Her involvement with Birdies for Charity was a catalyst for her continued volunteerism and service. Through her involvement in the Kansas City Chinese American Association, Wang created the Youth Hope Fund, which is comprised of students in the Kansas City area that fund raise to help feed, clothe, and educate children in need around the world.
“Volunteering has inspired me to motivate others,” Wang said.
And she has done just that. Since creating the Youth Hope Fund in October 2011, 20 young volunteers have joined the organization. Through bake sales, car washes, benefit luncheons, donations and raffles, the Youth Hope Fund has raised more than $6,000 and provided scholarships for 16 children in China.
Wang’s next venture incorporated both Joplin and the Youth Hope Fund. Volunteers from the Youth Hope Fund traveled to Joplin for a work day on May 26, 2012, and spent eight hours helping rebuild the area.
Her volunteer work and involvement with the community are not the only areas in which Wang shines. She is involved at Olathe Northwest High School, where she maintains a 4.4 grade point average and is No. 1 in her class, is set to become the president of the student council in her senior year, serves on the Principal’s Advisory Board, and is a member of a mentoring program for underclassmen.
Additionally, Wang finished fourth at the state of Kansas state high school golf championship and notched five top-10 finishes in AJGA tournaments since 2010.
“It is a challenge to do it all. I don’t always get a full night’s sleep, but it is rewarding and worth it,” Wang said.
About the USGA
The USGA conducts the U.S. Open, U.S. Women’s Open and U.S. Senior Open, as well as 10 national amateur championships, two state team championships and international matches. Together with The R&A, the USGA governs the game worldwide, jointly administering the Rules of Golf, Rules of Amateur Status, Equipment Standards and World Amateur Golf Rankings. The USGA’s working jurisdiction comprises the United States, its territories and Mexico.
The USGA is a global leader in the development and support of sustainable golf course management practices. It serves as a primary steward for the game’s history and funds an ongoing “For the Good of the Game” charitable giving program. Additionally, the USGA’s Course Rating and Handicap systems are used on six continents in more than 50 countries.
For more information about the USGA, visit www.usga.org.
About the AJGA
The American Junior Golf Association is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to the overall growth and development of young men and women who aspire to earn college golf scholarships through competitive junior golf. The AJGA provides valuable exposure for college golf scholarships, and has an annual junior membership (boys and girls ages 12-18) of approximately 5,500 junior golfers from 49 states and more than 40 countries. To ensure scholarship opportunities for all junior golfers who have the skill, the AJGA created the Achieving Competitive Excellence (ACE) Grant program to provide financial assistance to young players in need.
Titleist, the AJGA's National Sponsor, has been the catalyst and driving force behind the Association's success since 1989. Rolex, which is in its third decade of AJGA support, became the inaugural AJGA Premier Partner in 2004. In 2007, after 12 years of support, Ralph Lauren became the AJGA's second Premier Partner.
AJGA alumni have risen to the top of amateur, collegiate and professional golf. Former AJGA juniors have compiled more than 500 victories on the PGA and LPGA Tours. AJGA alumni include Stewart Cink, Matt Kuchar, Hunter Mahan, Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods, Paula Creamer, Cristie Kerr, Inbee Park and Morgan Pressel.
USGA-AJGA Presidents’ Leadership Award – Past Recipients
John Farese (West Sayville, N.Y.)
Natalie Turk (Franklin, Tenn.)
Drew Johnson (Oak Ridge, N.C.)
Jacqueline Calamaro (Newtown Square, Pa.)
Zach Herr (New Hope, Pa.)
Emily Gimpel (Lafayette Hill, Pa.)
Smylie Kaufman (Birmingham, Ala.)
Kelsey Conway (Ventura, Calif.)
Joseph Suarez (Richmond, Va.)
Angela Villela (Sylmar, Calif.)
Adam Michel (Orinda, Calif.)
Katrina Delen-Briones (San Francisco, Calif.)